This post started out going one way, but then it lingered half-finished for over a month. A few days ago, a friend posed a question on Twitter that got me thinking about the subject again, and this time a bit differently…
Part 1: The cart or the horse
Someone once asked me why I decided to tell people about my writing before I got published. The truth is, I didn’t make a conscious decision about it. My love of writing developed when I was 9 years old. At that age, if someone asks what you want to do when you grow up, you simply answer.
You don’t worry about the questions. The pressure. The tallying of successes and failures along the way. How’s the writing going? Do you have a publisher? When can I read/buy your book?
Now, though, now I know. Now I understand why someone might keep their dreams quiet until they come true — or in case they don’t. Now I feel the scrutiny, whether real or imagined, or maybe a bit of both. Now I worry about the supposed metrics that I may or may not be living up to.
And recently, for the first time, I’ve begun to wonder (with a hint of longing) what it would be like if no one knew about my dreams at all.
Part 2: What it would be like
In my fantasies, it’s peaceful. I pursue my writing in quiet, unworried solitude. No one is watching and waiting. No one is adding to my own patience. Or criticism. Or expectations. Or disappointment. I take my time, make my manuscript perfect, submit it to agents without having to tell anyone about rejections, and eventually get a huge book deal that validates all my secret efforts.
Part 3: The Twitter question
“Do any of you writers have unsupportive families? How do you deal with it?”
Part 4: What it would really be like
On the other hand, if no one knew, then no one could support me. No one would have supported me. My teachers wouldn’t have encouraged me to enter competitions. My friends wouldn’t have begged me to write them stories. My parents wouldn’t have cheered me on every step of the way.
I’d be working not just in solitude, but alone.
Part 5: Perspective
That Twitter inquiry wasn’t about non-supportive families — i.e., ones that either don’t know about your dreams or are indifferent to them — but about truly un-supportive families. Ones who disapprove. Ones who are against your dreams.
I tried to offer my friend some useful advice to her dilemma, but mostly I tried to offer my empathy. This path is emotionally taxing enough without having to endure the opposition of those closest to you.
And that was when the light bulb went off in my head.
Yeah, it’s annoying to feel scrutinized, maybe even judged. But those watchful eyes are the price I pay for all the helping hands that I depend on. And in the scheme of things, that’s a relatively small price.
In the end, I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to handle this issue of publicly vs. privately pursing one’s dreams. Each person has to work out what’s most comfortable for them, what’s going to best help them achieve their goals.
But for me personally, it’s impossible to imagine getting this far — not to mention continuing onward into the unknown — without the love and faith of my friends and family carrying me forward.